Detroit couple Janae and LaQuint Rhodes went back and forth a few times as to whether they wanted a big wedding. They had settled on waiting until June 2019 for something bigger, when they woke up one morning in September and decided they wanted to do it right away. They had no idea their DIY nuptial would become a social media sensation, for better and worse.
“Everything we got for that day was between him and me and my dad — and Facebook Marketplace to be honest,” Janae told Yahoo Lifestyle about their Sept. 22 wedding, which took place on the front lawn of their home with about 50 guests. They prepared the whole whole thing in two weeks and stayed up until 4 a.m. the night before their wedding making the decorations and food themselves. When guests arrived that afternoon, they assigned jobs to anyone who volunteered. They didn’t rehearse anything, and the wrong song played as they walked down the aisle. Janae had lost her voice and could barely manage to say her vows.
“But it was all worth it,” she said, despite their exhaustion. “It was happy, it was joyous, and it was memorable. It was intimate and personal.”
Earlier, a friend of mine sent me photos of people making fun of a wedding and suggested we put together a reception for her. After speaking with the bride, I learned more details that their flower girl/daughter (grooms biological) was on life support. She was involved in a swimming accident and nearly drowned. She’s been hospitalized since the night of their wedding. When I spoke with Janae, she was in high spirits with a heavy heart. I couldn’t imagine going viral for being me but being made fun of….then going through this with their kid. I’m challenging all Detroit business owners, entertainers to donate at least $5 or services to put on a reception for these beautiful people. Click the link in my bio 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽 #detroitreceptionchallenge #payitforward #ohsoradio
A post shared by Coach Rosie (@randirossario) on Sep 24, 2018 at 3:21pm PDT
But someone driving by thought they saw something different. They snapped a photo of the wedding setup and shared it on social media, writing, “What in the Detroit hood wedding is this?” The photos went viral, even before the celebration was over, with many making similarly critical comments.
Janae and LaQuint didn’t know they’d become internet famous right away, because something much worse threatened to ruin their wedding day. On the way to take photos downtown after their reception, they got a phone call that LaQuint’s 6-year-old daughter had been in an accident in a pool and almost drowned. They rushed to the hospital. “We spent the night in the hospital in our wedding clothes,” Janae said. “It was immediate parent mode.”
Meanwhile, local radio personality and life coach Randi Rossario saw the viral post. She decided to put her internet radio station, Oh So Radio, and her social media reach to good use. “The life coach in me was like, ‘Let me let me help these people and let me let me see what I can do, because I know how I would feel in that situation,'” Rossario told Yahoo. “It wasn’t that they needed another wedding. I thought that they deserved another wedding.”
#DetroitReceptionChallenge went great!! I'd like to start by saying thank you to every single vendor that donated their time and service. The day of the event was busy as any wedding day is, but Detroit showed up and OUT for the beautiful Rhodes Couple Sponsors Include: Venue-El Club (ceremony and reception) @elclubdetroit Decor-Lavish Event and Prints by Talia (both ceremony and reception) @lavishbytalia @regaleventplng Organizer-Randi Rossario, Monique and Brianha @randirossario @briahnamarche Food-Chef McClendon, Chef Max Hardy, Durdens Catering @chefmaxhardy @chefmcclendon @dc_cheftony Sweets Table-LJ Designs and Treats Cake- Jars of Perfection @l_jeter1 Banner-Oh So Radio & Banner Kings @bannerkingz Photography- Oh So Photo Studio, Kandis Page, Kory Woods, Luxour Images DJ Services DJ Cartel @__carter_ Bride&Groom Transportation First Class Sedan Amer-248-7667698 Reception Dress Custom made by Tiara J @tiiaraj Ceremony Dress provided by Luxe Bridal Salon Show/Kim @luxebridalsalonshow Bridal Party Bouquets Cora Lee Luxe @coraleeluxeevents Bridal Hair Shakira K @shakirak_stylist Party Favors custom made by LotusBtr @lotusbtr Bridal Make Up Aye Redd @ayeredd Bridal Party Make Up Natural Slay Faces @naturalslayfaces Groom/Grooms Men Tuxedos Marche’s Catering @marchecatering.co Nails by @tisharajthenailprincess Digital Invite and Program Design @bmpublicrelations Couples Massage by @goldstandardmassageclinic @detroitpartyrentals for the throne chairs @maydegirl bridesmaids dresses Of course @a_futures_llc assisted as well with securing a few sponsors THANK YOU DETROIT! We had some major last minute changes and STILL made it happen #ohsoradio #ohso #ohsonews #rhodestoforever
A post shared by Oh So Radio (@theohsoradio) on Oct 15, 2018 at 4:08am PDT
She immediately posted what she called the #DetroitReceptionChallenge, asking listeners, followers, and wedding vendors to step up and do something for the couple. The Rhodeses found out about their unwanted fame at around the same time Rossario issued her challenge.
“We were shocked and appalled,” LaQuint told Yahoo. “Seriously? It was just unbelievable. Where do you get negativity when we were embracing love and happiness? That’s what we thought that mattered the most.”
After a few days, when his daughter was out of the woods and improving, the couple agreed to talk to Rossario. They were still traumatized by the one-two punch of the accident and the cruelty of the internet, but they decided to go along with her plan. Vendors all over Detroit stepped in to provide everything from dresses, hair, and makeup to the venue and music, and Rossario became an impromptu wedding planner. She also raised $1,300 for them on GoFundMe.
“They wanted to be a part of something good,” she said about the vendors. “They said they’re constantly hearing negative things about Detroit, and to see something positive being done, they wanted to do their part.” That’s also why the Rhodeses decided to have their wedding all over again, even though they were personally satisfied with their first one.
“Detroit already has such a bad name because of different crimes or situations and all of that, so to have some light shine through the city was phenomenal to us,” Janae said. “It was definitely a chance to relive a special day from beginning to end and actually have our hair down about it. I had butterflies this time — I think we both had butterflies this time.”
For their second wedding, at the El Club, more of the Rhodeses’ friends and family were able to attend. While they were “on cloud infinity,” as Janae put it, they almost didn’t realize their other gift — an all-expense-paid honeymoon in Jamaica, which they’ll take next year.
With their daughter on the mend and this wedding behind them, Janae and LaQuint are planning how to use this experience for their future together. They may even write a book about it. “We both have a passion for just encouraging, inspiring, and uplifting others,” Janae said.
Rossario hopes that others can take away another lesson from this story: “Be nicer on social media,” she said. “Social media is not just social media; it’s real life too, and you’re hurting someone’s feelings in real life.”
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